The Folklorist

by kiyala (樹夜蘭)
illustrated by pie派


It’s nearly half past eleven at night. Blake fumbles to turn the alarm on his phone off as he reaches for his radio, flicking it on just in time to catch the ending of the previous program. He smiles as he hears the opening notes of The Folklorist‘s theme music, abandoning his work at his desk to sit on his bed and listen.

The college radio channel is absolute shit, or it would be if not for this half-hour segment every night. Somebody had begged the radio coordinators to take half an hour off the new age music that usually plays late at night through to the early hours of the morning, and turned it into half an hour of storytelling instead.

Blake doesn’t know anything about him, nobody does, just that he sits there for half an hour each night, his voice deep and calming and familiar, and turns folktales from around the world into little radio plays for his audience. It’s the most popular segment on the college radio by far, and the Folklorist deserves his popularity. Each one feels like a performance, with relevant sound effects and fitting background music. As far as anybody can tell, he does it all on his own. Blake is in love. He’s completely head over heels for the man on the other side of the radio and it’s pathetic, he knows it, but he doesn’t care.

He’ll lie in bed hugging a pillow to his chest as he listens because sometimes, he’ll smile at what the Folklorist has to say, or he’ll shut his eyes and imagine someone else entirely and either way, he’ll need to bury his face into the pillow for a while because he’s that kind of ridiculous. At least he doesn’t share his dorm room with anyone else. His best friend gives him enough shit as it is.

“Thanks for tuning in, guys. I’m the Folklorist. Welcome to half an hour of what I hope will be good storytelling.”

It’s what he says every time, and Blake smiles to himself as he listens to the Folklorist reply to the handful of emails he received today before clearing his throat.

“Right, so tonight I’m going to read you ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’. It’s a Japanese folk tale from the tenth century. I hope you find that as cool as I do.”

Blake’s already pressing his face against his pillow with a grin. This story is one he grew up with, his mother narrating it in Japanese and his father taking over, years later, in English. It’s probably the very first story he heard about people from space and he knows it’s the reason for his massive collection of sci-fi novels in his dorm and back home.

The background music the Folklorist has picked is something beautiful and light, unobtrusive as he begins narrating. Blake lies there listening to the Folklorist. This is what he looks forward to every single week night: learning new stories, or going over old ones. Sometimes people will write in with requests and the Folklorist will research them, to make sure that he does them justice.

By midnight the Folklorist is done, letting the new age music start up again. Blake lies where he is, even deeper in love than he was before, impossible as that might sound. It doesn’t matter, though, because he knows that this time, it’s completely unrequited, and that’s a whole lot better than being in the limbo of uncertainty.

Sam wakes Blake the next morning, as Sam usually does. It’s ten o’clock, which means Sam’s finished his horrible morning shift at one of the campus cafés. He’s brought coffee and bagels with him and there’s a very good reason that he is Blake’s favourite person in the entire world.

Ignoring Blake’s ridiculous crush on Sam, that is. Which is something Blake tries to do as often as possible.

“So how was your radio boyfriend last night?” Sam asks with a grin.

“Shut up.” Blake hates how easy it is to make him blush. Sam, on the other hand, seems to enjoy taking advantage of it regularly. Then he smiles to himself, looking down at his coffee cup. “He told one of my favourite stories last night. From when I was a kid.”

“Yeah?” Sam grins, stealing Blake’s desk chair and pulling it over to his bed. “Tell me about it.”

Blake does, getting dressed as he tells Sam his own, less impressive version of The Bamboo Cutter. It’s a testament to how comfortable they are with each other that Blake doesn’t feel self-conscious as he changes. Sam isn’t bothered either, listening intently with a small smile on his face.

“What are the chances that he’d read your favourite story ?” Sam asks, when they’re walking to class.

“He probably would have gotten around to it eventually.” Blake shrugs. “I mean, if he’s telling folk tales from all around the world, he was bound to get to that one.”

Sam hums. “Maybe.”

“What, you don’t agree?”

Sam shrugs this time. “It’s the first Japanese folk tale he’s told so far, right? Which just happened to be your favourite.”

“It also happens to be the oldest recorded Japanese folk tale,” Blake replies, trying to ignore the uncomfortable flutter in his stomach. “No one knows it’s my favourite anyway. It’s not exactly something that comes up.”

With a small sigh, Sam nods. “I guess.”

“You’re being weird, Samir.”

“Thought you’d be used to that by now.” Sam grins at him, bumping their shoulders together. “Just thought it’d be nice if your crush on the radio guy wasn’t one-sided, you know?”

Blake snorts quietly, shaking his head. The last crush Blake had, before the Folklorist, culminated in a drunk makeout session that was amazing, except for the tiny fact that the other guy had no memory of it. Blake would point this out, if not for the fact the other guy was Sam

“I just want to make you happy,” Sam says quietly.

“You do, man.” Blake wraps an arm around Sam’s shoulder and squeezes. It’s weird to be this close to Sam right after thinking about that night they kissed, but Blake’s been pretty good at ignoring it so far and he’s going to ignore it now.

They have most of their classes together and just as he always does, Sam spends a great deal of their Fiction lecture teasing Blake about the Folklorist.

“You should request a story,” Sam tells him. “That’s what people do, right? If he’s already done your favourite, you should keep him on a roll.”

“It’s not that easy,” Blake mutters, even though his mind has already latched on to the idea and probably won’t let it go. “He needs to prepare. He can’t just do a story at the drop of a hat. He’s better, he does his research. Makes sure he gets the proper feel of the story across—fuck, listen to me. I’m so gone over this guy.”

Sam smiles at him. “I think you should request something anyway. It’ll be worth the wait.”

“Maybe,” Blake replies, turning his attention back to their lecturer before she can catch them not paying attention.

That afternoon, he gets back to his room after class and sits down in front if his laptop. He feels like an idiot and it takes him five deleted drafts before he settles on an email to the Folklorist.


I’m a big fan of the show and I was wondering if you could read the original Little Mermaid sometime. No rush.

Thanks. Love what you do.

– Blake W.

He hits send before he can agonise over it more. Once it’s out of his hands, he turns his attention to his homework and all the readings he has to do.

He’d get Sam to listen to the show too if not for the fact that he has to wake up so early for his café job. Then Sam would know what he’s talking about, and why everyone on campus likes the show so much.

One day, he thinks to himself as he starts on his first reading. When Sam doesn’t need to wake up so early and they’ve got the time.

Of course that only leads to Blake thinking about both of them lying in his bed, and before his mind can wander any further down that path, he quickly pushes the thought from his mind and starts his work.

“Thanks for tuning in guys. I’m the Folklorist, and welcome to half an hour of what I hope will be good storytelling,” the familiar says over the fading notes of the opening theme.

He pauses for a moment. “Actually, guys, I have a little announcement to make.”

Blake sits up in bed, looking over at his radio. The Folklorist has never done announcements before, and Blake listens closely, wondering what he’s going to say.

The Folklorist takes a deep breath. It’s shaky enough that Blake can hear it over the radio, too. “I’m in love.”

It’s Blake’s turn to take a deep, steadying breath. It shouldn’t feel like his entire world is crumbling, but it does anyway.

“I’m in love and I’ve been in love with him for… years. I don’t even know how long. I’ve never known how to tell him and I’m hoping that this will do, that this can at least be the start of a conversation I’ve been meaning to have for a long time.”

It’s strange to hear the Folklorist saying this in his deep, storytelling voice. It doesn’t sound scripted, but Blake knows that if he were in that studio, saying those words, his voice would be trembling.

So his best friend doesn’t remember making out with him and the Folklorist is in love with someone else. Sure. Great.

“And he requested this, which I think is wonderfully apt,” the Folklorist says. “It’s my favourite fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a beautifully tragic story about unrequited love and while I hope that none of our love lives are quite as tragic as this, I hope you’ll enjoy it all the same, no matter how many times you might have heard it before. Here’s The Little Mermaid.”

What,” Blake says, staring at his radio.

He listens, his heart pounding as he tries to get his head around this. He gets off the bed and goes back to his laptop. There’s a new email in his inbox, a reply to the one he’d sent the Folklorist, and his hands are trembling as he clicks on it.


Done. x

He wants to reply, but he doesn’t know what to say and he’s pretty sure that the Folklorist isn’t going to check his mail during the show anyway. Blake wants to demand to know who he is, but he isn’t sure that the Folklorist will reply to that at all and, most of all, he just wants to stop worrying about this and enjoy listening to the story.

He must have been preparing this for a while before Blake requested it, which isn’t so surprising considering that it’s his favourite Andersen fairy tale. He has sound effects for the sea, the ship and the storm, the mermaid’s song, and it’s all wonderfully put together.

Then he gets to the part of the story where the mermaid loses her voice, and he hesitates.

He continues speaking and his voice isn’t as deep as before, it isn’t quite as smooth, because Blake can hear a tremble in it and…

And Blake is an idiot.

It’s Sam. Sam, who reads the rest of the story in his usual voice, who convinced Blake to request this story in the first place, who—

Who loves Blake.

Oh, Blake is such an idiot.

He paces his room while listening to the rest of the story because he can’t stay still, can’t keep the grin off his face, and the moment it’s over and the Folklorist is bidding them all goodnight in his usual, deep voice, Blake grabs his phone and keys and walks out of his room, barely restraining himself from running all the way down the hall and out the door, so he can go to Sam’s building and Sam’s room.

He’s beaten Sam here, from what he can tell, which means that he should be using his time to figure out what he’s going to say, except he can’t think, he can’t do anything but wait and he isn’t even sure whether it’s a good or bad thing that he isn’t waiting for long before Sam walks down the hall. He freezes when he sees Blake there.

Blake still doesn’t know what to say and the first thing that comes out is, “You’re a sneaky bastard, Samir.”

Sam, who knows Blake well enough to know that this translates into a good thing, grins. “You know me.”

“I thought I did. Never knew you were a master storyteller or a dirty fucking liar, you told me that you had to sleep early so you could wake up for that disgustingly early morning job.”

“Well, I should,” Sam replies. “I just don’t. Good thing I spend the first three hours of every morning around a ready supply of coffee, huh?”

Blake laughs, shaking his head. “Get over here.”

“I kind of have to. You’re standing in front of my door.” Sam walks closer, and Blake closes the distance between them and takes hold of his chin.

“For the record,” Blake murmurs, “I’m in love with you too.”

“Good,” Sam breathes, his heavy sigh of relief ghosting over Blake’s lips. “I’m really glad.”

“I really want to kiss you,” Blake tells him, cupping Sam’s cheek and bringing him closer so their noses are brushing.

“You should.” Sam leans into Blake’s touch. “Kiss me, I mean. You should kiss me. I want you to—”

He’s about to start rambling and Blake shuts him up with gentle kiss, waiting until Sam returns it before deepening it. They cling to each other in the hallway just outside Sam’s dorm room, kissing hungrily, relearning everything from that one drunken night. Blake finds that one spot along Sam’s jaw that makes him gasp breathlessly.

“Wait,” Sam gasps, pulling away. “You knew—fuck, you remember that night, don’t you?”

“You too?” Blake asks, his eyes going wide. “I was waiting for you to say something the next day but you never did and I just assumed you were too drunk to remember it.”

“I was waiting for you,” Sam says, “and I came to the same conclusion about you.”

“We’re idiots,” Blake declares and Sam hums in agreement before leaning in for another kiss.

They eventually make it into Sam’s room and into his bed, mouths still joined. Sam pulls away, panting softly, with Blake lying beneath him. “I actually need to sleep.”

Blake lets his head fall back against the mattress. “Shit, yeah, you do. I’ll go—”

“I want you to stay right here,” Sam tells him, settling on the bed beside Blake with their legs still tangled. “I want you to be here when I get back from work tomorrow morning, so we can pick up right where we left off.”

“You’re really twisting my arm there, Samir.” Blake grins, pressing a kiss to Sam’s forehead. “Good night.”

“I love you,” Sam murmurs, taking Blake’s hand. “So much.”

“Love you too.”

Blake wakes up when Sam is getting out of bed early the next morning and grumbles softly, quieting when he feels a kiss on his forehead.

“Go back to sleep, I’ll be back with coffee in three hours.”

“You’re my favourite,” Blake mumbles, rolling onto his side now that he has the space, dropping back off to sleep.

When Blake wakes up again, Sam’s clock tells him that it’s nine o’clock. He sits up and stretches, wincing at his own morning breath. Sam isn’t going to want to kiss him like this. Getting up, Blake goes over to Sam’s desk, where he knows he’ll find at least three packs of gum at any given time. He steals one, figuring that Sam won’t mind, glad for the way it immediately makes his mouth taste a little better.

Sam returns at about a quarter to ten and he’s carrying two cups of coffee as usual. Blake kisses Sam at the door, letting him in so he can put the coffee cups down before pulling him into a deeper kiss.

“Spent all three hours of my shift thinking about what I was going to do to you when I got back,” Sam murmurs against Blake’s lips. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make coffee for people when all I could think of was how badly I wanted to be riding your dick?”

“Fuck,” Blake growls, walking them both towards the bed.

“I know we should talk,” Sam says as he straddles Blake, kissing down his neck. “I know that this is going to change everything, but you wouldn’t have come here last night if you didn’t want this. You wouldn’t be here right now and I wouldn’t be here, talking at you when I should be getting you naked.”

Blake gets to work on that, tugging Sam’s shirt off and letting it drop to the floor. “Talk later. Orgasms first.”

“I really love you,” Sam laughs, kissing Blake briefly before they pull apart and undress themselves.

Sam pushes Blake onto his back, reaching over to the nightstand for his lube and a condom. Blake rolls the condom on as he watches Sam finger himself with practiced ease. Deciding he’s ready, Sam kneels over Blake, rubbing lube over his cock before sinking down onto it little by little.

“Fuck,” Blake gasps, when they’re only halfway there. He buries his face against Sam’s neck and tries to remember how to breathe.

Sam keeps going, until Blake is entirely inside him and they’re both trembling. Blake kisses all over Sam’s face, arms wrapped around him and they move slowly, carefully, rocking against each other until they adjust, their movements getting more familiar, more desperate. Blake makes a fist around Sam’s cock, jerking him off as they fuck, and Sam keens, his face flushed. They kiss sloppily, lips against whatever stretch of skin they can reach, and this is better than anything that Blake has ever allowed himself to fantasise. There’s no way Blake could have anticipated the way Sam’s fingers feel in his hair, tugging urgently, his voice low and husky, sounding like the Folklorist as he speaks into Blake’s ear, babbling about how great he feels.

Blake comes first, moaning softly as he jerks Sam off harder, encouraging him with a breathless, “Come on, come on, come for me.”

They lie in each other’s arms afterwards, once Blake’s thrown his condom out and they’ve wiped themselves down with a towel. They’ll need to shower, but they’ll worry about that later. For now, Blake has Sam in his arms and neither of them can stop grinning.

It’s all Blake needs.

illustrated by pie派

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